Amadeus William Grabau

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Amadeus William Grabau
Amadeus William Grabau.jpg
Born(1870-01-09)January 9, 1870
Cedarburg, Wisconsin, United States
DiedMarch 20, 1946(1946-03-20) (aged 76)
Resting placecompound of the geological department of the National University of Peking
MonumentsDorsum Grabau, a wrinkle ridge on the Moon named for him
Other namesthe father of Chinese geology
Known for
  • work on stratigraphic deposits
  • invertebrate evolution
  • etc.
Notable work
  • Principles of Stratigraphy (1913)
  • Text Book of Geology (1920-21)
  • Silurian Fossils of Yunnan (1920)
  • Stratigraphy of China (1924-25)
  • Early Permian Fossils of China (1934)
  • etc.
Spouse(s)Mary Antin (m. Oct. 5, 1901)
Childrenone daughter
AwardsMary Clark Thompson Medal (1936)
Hayden Memorial Geological Award (1941)

Amadeus William Grabau (January 9, 1870—March 20, 1946), the father of Chinese geology, was an expatriate American geologist.


Grabau was a German-American paleontologist and geologist, born in Cedarburg, Wisconsin in the United States who died in Peking, China. His grandfathers had led dissident Lutheran immigrants from Germany to Buffalo, New York. His education began in his father's parochial school in Cedarburg, and then the public high school there. After his father became head of the Martin Luther Seminary in 1885, he finished high school in Buffalo. He took classes in the evenings while apprenticed to a bookbinder. His interest in local fossils grew. In a correspondence course in mineralogy, he impressed geologist William Otis Crosby enough to hire him at the Boston Society of Natural History in 1890, and arrange his education at Boston Latin, MIT, and Harvard.

He taught at MIT and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute early in his career. In 1901 he became a professor at Columbia University in New York. He married Barnard student Mary Antin on October 5, 1901. She would go on to become a prominent author. The pro-German attitudes during World War I led to an estrangement from his wife, and in 1919 he left Columbia for China. He was appointed professor at Peking National University in 1919 or 1920. As part of his life's work, he conducted a geologic survey of China, and is now known as the father of Chinese geology. In 1936, the National Academy of Sciences awarded him the Mary Clark Thompson Medal from for most important service to geology and paleontology.[3] During World War II he remained in Peking. Around 1941 he was interned by the Japanese Imperial Army. His health declined precipitously, and he died of an internal hemorrhage after his release.


Grabau was also a prolific author, publishing at least 10 books in the first half of the 20th century. Grabau developed various theories during his lifetime, among them the theory of rhythms concerning the growth of the earth's crust and a theory concerning mountain building and creation. The Dorsum Grabau, a wrinkle ridge on the Moon is named after him.[citation needed] A list of books written by Grabau, and their publication dates includes:[4]

  • North American Index Fossils (1909, 1910)
  • Principles of Stratigraphy (1913)
  • Textbook of Geology (1920–21) Two volumes
  • Silurian Fossils of Yunnan (1920)
  • Ordovician Fossils of North China (1921)
  • Paleozoic Corals of China (1921)
  • Stratigraphy of China (1924–25)
  • Migration of Geosynclines (1924)
  • Early Permian Fossils of China (1934)
  • Rhythm of the Ages (1940)


  1. ^ "Amadeus William Grabau". Merriam Webster's Biographical Dictionary (fee via Fairfax County Public Library). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. 1995. Gale Document Number: GALE|K1681154602. Retrieved 2014-01-17. Biography in Context. (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Amadeus William Grabau". Dictionary of American Biography (fee via Fairfax County Public Library). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1974. Gale Document Number: GALE|BT2310012533. Retrieved 2014-01-17. Biography in Context. (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b "Mary Clark Thompson Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
  4. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica". Retrieved 13 June 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mazur, Allan (2004). A Romance in Natural History: The Lives and Works of Amadeus Grabau and Mary Antin. Syracuse, New York: Garret. LCCN 2004096697.
  • H. D. Thomas, Nature 158 (1946): 89-91
  • H. W. Shimer, Am. Jour. of Science 244 (1946): 735-736 (with bibliography)
  • H. W. Shimer, Geological Soc. of America, Proc., 1947, pp. 155–166
  • V. K. Ting, in Geological Society of China, Bull. 10 (1931): ix-xviii (also cited as Grabau Anniversary, the commemorative vol. presented to Grabau on his fiftieth birthday)
  • Y. C. Sun, in Geological Society of China, Bull. 27 (1947): 1026, includes a bibliography of 291 titles.

External links[edit]